Improvement of Our Environment: Agenda for World Environment Day
By Mohd Mustaque Ahmed
Nowadays, it sounds unusual when we think about our environment. Many lips cannot be stopped; even a layman would say “there are changes in our surrounding. We feel lot more warm. Something is happening due to which we are suffering. Masidi Kum Kanglene (The drought is happening.) ”. The fact is that there were cutting down of numerous valuable trees. It means there is lesser role of trees absorbing CO2. Because of that CO2 is increased in its quantity in our atmosphere. Sun rays are attracted by these CO2 due to which we feel warmer and hotness. It means there is climate change by which it is most likely that there is imbalance in our environment which is due to human activities in the efforts of bringing developments in much human interference with the balance of environment. There is very less rain water in Manipur at the right time. Many villages are without water in ponds or rivers or canals which will affect crop production. Thus people are buying water brought from far off places or rivers.
I still remember the day I with my colleagues conquered such a lovely place and the summit of Shirui hills (Ukhrul, Manipur) in March, 2006. Unfortunately that was the day I could not see the flowering plant of world famous Shirui Lily (Lilium mackliniae Sealy) because it was not right time for its flowering. Eventhough, I was elated by seeing the numerous fold of mountains spread every side of the mountains. Ukhrul is a lovely place having such cool and pleasant environment. I still feel the salubrious air of Ukhrul. We have a pride of Loktak Lake where the floating mat is beautifully weaved. It is the home of our popular and uncommon Sangai (Cervus eldi eldi Mc) also. Thus, Manipur has been blessed with such pleasant habitation of Shirui Lily and Sangai in the abodes of Shirui National Park and Keibul Lamjao National Park respectively.
Second thing in the mind is about a time I was asked by my teacher to collect a plant from two particular areas. The very plant was in the sight of my teacher and me. I had to collect it once again after three years for its re-examination. To my surprise I could not locate the plant where I exactly had seen it. The first spot was undergoing preparation on the making of a house while the second place bears a newly constructed retaining wall of roadside. There were such changes within three years in the name of so called development. Thus I could not make my teacher happy by giving the valuable plant species which exemplify species lost. The species loss means loss of not only plant but also invaluable fish, birds, useful insects etc.
The third thing in the mind is about the flash flood we were within the past years. The reason of flash flood is loud and clear that there are denudations of trees from our hills. The extraction of trees is done to derive woods and timbers, charcoal and plant products.
Most of our houses are built by woods. Charcoal is necessary to beat the coldness during winter in Manipur. Shifting cultivation is one means of production of rice, maize, sesame, beans, taro, different fruits etc in the hills. Many hill-men are of the view that “we have to find alternatives to shifting cultivation”. The old method of fallow cycle used to have fallow cycle of 10 to 18 years. Meaning thereby one piece of hill area is used to grow rice or maize or other plants for around three years continuously then it is left unused for around 10-18 years which allowed to regrowth of trees/plants. Now this cycle has been shortened to more or less four to five years. Because of this the first fertile layer our hills has been brought down by heat and rain to rivers. The rivers have been shallower by soils year by year. The future afforestation in such barren rocky area may seem to be impossible. The rain water is no longer retained by plants in the hills. Earlier hills and its plant with plant debris used to preserve water and used to release it very slowly. Nowadays rain water runs down so quickly that it reaches rivers in valley area so suddenly to make flash flood by breaking river walls (‘turel torban’).
I with many thousands of villagers were victims of major floods four to five times in twenty years in major cases in which the damage were done to plants, animals, properties, houses and in many small scale floods in which paddy were lost. In major cases of flood our houses were submerged 40 to 45 days. It took time ready for resettlement. It’s time for mass movement for the plantation of trees in mass to prevent repeat of such incidents.
Manipur is such a place we have precious biodiversity such as Nongin (Syrmaticus humie humie), Uningthou (Phoebe hainesiana Brandis), Pengba (Osteobrama belangiri (Val.) etc. Recalling loss of species, one of the prominent losses in my mind is about the crows. The famous Manipuri statement ‘Kwak-ki lanbao laorare’ (war cry of crows) is no longer relevant, because the crows are not in sight. It has indicated that the reproduction of crows has been disturbed. Insecticides are used to kill insects and the crow in turn might have eaten these insects. Thus the crow is losing its natural power of forming egg-shells. That is how the species are lost. There are opinions that herbicides and insecticides are killing our fish in the lakes. It may happen that many species of fish are lost before the actual researches of documenting species are taken place. In the recent years we observed the events of tracking live birds. Unfortunately these beautiful birds are killed for want of foods. Our ecology should remain in a balance that the harmful insects are eaten by migratory birds. Sometimes the numbers of such insects are increased to such extent that it does damages to our crops. It brings diseases to humans even. There are awareness of loss of species and biodiversity in the recent times. But the implementation at the lower level is far reaching. In this regard, the efforts of various ‘People for Animals’ to prevent killing of wild animals are laudable.
Likewise, we heard about the protection of our environment by various movements. One of such movement for e.g. Chipko movement (hug the tree) is non-violent, social and ecological. The famous environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna and his followers tried to preserve forests against cutting of trees by government in Uttarakhand (Gharwal) and to Himalayan areas. It was started by tribal groups by hugging trees to prevent to cut down trees in the year 1970s. In the process this movement prevented to cut down trees and did afforestation. This movement made the government U-turn of its decision making industry partner to cut down trees to make sport items. This movement spread to other places of India. Consequently the year 1980s brought laws to prevent cutting down of trees.
In yet one more useful example, the environmentalist Dr Wangari Maathai of Kenya was awarded Nobel Peace Prize (2004). This was the first time that the Novel committee set the environment criteria for giving Novel Peace Prize. She stood against the growing of Marijuana in the completely deforested of Mount Kenya. Dr Maathai established Green Belt Movement in the year 1977. She and her co-workers improved the environment by afforestation. The movement improved the condition of human livings in Kenya. With the coming of World Environment Day, this time let’s promise to improve our environment and the condition of human livings.
(The author is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Botany, United College, Lambung, Chandel-795127;[email protected])
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